Taliban Gets First-Ever Invite to Talk Climate Change with United Nations

Zainul Abideen Abid, Deputy Director of the National Environmental Protection Agency of Af
WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the Taliban jihadist terror organization in control of Afghanistan joined a series of meetings that included representatives of United Nations agencies to discuss the alleged threat of climate change, the group organizing the talks confirmed this week.

The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee (NAC), an organization that has enthusiastically advocated for the international community to lift sanctions on the Taliban to allow for “climate crisis” investment, hosted the meetings, which reportedly lasted three days and gave Taliban terrorists access to “a broad range of their counterparts in the West.” The meetings ended on Monday.

The conversations, which reportedly occurred both “face-to-face and online,” were the first of their kind in which Taliban terrorists were offered a platform to discuss climate change with United Nations members.

The Taliban, a fundamentalist Islamist terror group with close ties to al-Qaeda and similar violent entities, has been the uncontested government of Afghanistan since August 15, 2021, when Taliban leaders stormed the nation’s capital, Kabul, and then-President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, surrendering the government. The fall of Kabul marked the end of the 20-year war in Afghanistan, which began with the ouster of the Taliban in 2001, shortly after the September 11 al-Qaeda attacks. After years of negotiations to end the war leaving Afghanistan with some form of legitimate government, leftist President Joe Biden chose to break commitments made by predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw all American troops by May 1, 2021, extending the war and prompting the Taliban to enact a rapid campaign to seize the country.

The Biden Afghanistan policy resulted not just in the return of the Taliban to power, but the abandonment of advanced American military technology in the country, ultimately falling in the hands of Taliban terrorists. The Taliban held a parade shortly after taking over the country to show off the weapons Biden had left the group.

TOPSHOT - Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul on August 17, 2021, as the Taliban moved to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Taliban fighters patrol along a street in Kabul on August 17, 2021, as the Taliban moved to quickly restart the Afghan capital following their stunning takeover of Kabul and told government staff to return to work (WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images).

Despite no other individual or entity challenging the Taliban’s claim to being the official government of the country – formally, the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” – the United Nations does not recognize the Taliban and has not granted it the seat at the General Assembly or other venues reserved for the Afghan government. Only a small number of mostly rogue nations – including Iran, Russia, and China – have recognized the Taliban as the “interim” government of Afghanistan. China officially accepted a Taliban ambassador to Beijing in December, the first country to do so.

Since Taliban leaders do not have direct access to United Nations venues, platforms like that offered by the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee are some of the few offered to them. In a press conference on Wednesday, the organization’s director, Terje Watterdal, told reporters that the meetings this week were the first in which Taliban jihadists “joined a parallel session, face-to-face and online, with a broad range of their counterparts in the West, since the change of government in August 2021.”

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the talks included “universities, diplomats, UN agencies, donors and grassroots members of Afghan society,” without elaborating on what “grassroots” representing “Afghan society” the Taliban allowed to participate. Watterdal reportedly claimed that women were generously allowed to participate in the meetings “to ensure that we also have the women’s perspective when it comes to climate change.”

The Taliban is violently oppressive against all women and girls, effectively banning them from leaving their homes in 2021, banning them from working outside, and erasing them from society entirely. In April 2023, the Taliban banned women from working for the United Nations, meaning any women who do cannot travel to Afghanistan without facing criminal consequences.

A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. Recent Taliban rulings on Afghan women include bans on university education and working for NGOs, sparking protests in major cities. Security in the capital Kabul has intensified in recent days, with more checkpoints, armed vehicles, and Taliban special forces on the streets. Authorities have not given a reason for the tougher security. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

A Taliban fighter stands guard as a woman walks past in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, Dec. 26, 2022. Recent Taliban rulings on Afghan women include bans on university education and working for NGOs, sparking protests in major cities (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi).

Watterdal, the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee leader, insisted that, despite the Taliban’s long history of human rights atrocities and ongoing violence against civilians, it was necessary for the world to “de-politicize” climate change.

The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee also joined the leadership of the Taliban’s “National Environmental Protection Agency” on Wednesday to condemn international groups for suspending 32 climate change projects in Afghanistan.

“When we are talking about collective action, Afghan ministries, universities, industry and the Afghan people must act. But we in the international community must support Afghanistan in their efforts,” a representative of the Norwegian group declared. Local media outlet Tolo News, which reported on the condemnation, did not specify if the Taliban had allowed women, either Afghans or international workers, to participate in the suspended climate projects.

Taliban leadership has repeatedly claimed that the alleged “climate crisis” is a priority for its sharia tyranny. Less than a month after the Kabul takeover, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a member of the Taliban’s Cultural Commission, told Newsweek that Taliban terrorists were seeking international cooperation on the climate.

“We believe the world has a unique opportunity of rapprochement and coming together to tackle the challenges not only facing us but the entire humanity,” Balkhi was quoted as saying, “and these challenges ranging from world security and climate change need the collective efforts of all.”

Suhail Shaheen – a Taliban spokesman at the time who has since risen to become the unofficial Taliban ambassador to the United Nations – similarly demanded massive international investment in alleged environmental projects that the U.N. had approved prior to the fall of Kabul in November 2021, claiming Afghanistan’s climate was “fragile”:

The Kabul Times, a newspaper actively promoted by the Taliban leadership online, featured an article on Wednesday warning of “climate catastrophe” and citing the U.N.

“One of the severe security crises that is usually overlooked in such discussions is the water and environmental crisis, which has become more complicated in recent years due to climate change,” the article claimed. “Despite contributing minimally to greenhouse gas emissions globally, Afghanistan is one of the countries most affected by climate change.”

The newspaper similarly featured comments from a Taliban official, “Acting Minister of Economy Qari Din Mohammad Hanif,” who demanded in remarks marking Earth Day that Afghans “fulfill their religious and national responsibilities regarding the protection of the earth and the environment,”

While the Taliban has minimal official interaction with the United Nations, it has maintained communication on issues of mutual interest. Among the first international officials to meet with Taliban leaders in 2021 was David Beasley, then the head of the World Food Program (WFP), who met with senior Taliban officials in Qatar in August of that year. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres confirmed in November 2021 that multiple United Nations humanitarian agencies were active in Afghanistan “with the support of the Taliban.”

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Tera Dahl

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